Road to Legend


Game Title: Road to Legend
Genre: Board game companion
Target: Teens+
Monetization: Free with in-app purchases

Road to Legend is a companion app to the board game Descent. It is a merger between both digital and physical games. This does several interesting things, replaces the overlord player with the apps AI, tracks the character’s progress throughout the campaign and offers new campaigns and dungeon crawls. It also provides ambient sounds and some narrations adding to the atmosphere while playing the game. It also adjusts its content based on the physical collections you tell it you own, giving it a lot of variety and replay value.

There is a tutorial, but it is mainly based on using the app and what changes there are from the board game. A tutorial for someone new to the game would be a benefit and make the learning experience fully tied into using the app. The text is small, even on a large phone or small tablet, making it something that must be constantly picked up and put down during gameplay. Larger font size or text to speech would allow the device to be fully interacted with while it sits at the table. It offers help by directing you to a pdf file you can download to your device. An in-game help reference section that can be searched would be much more useful at the table. Prompts for the monster’s actions look identical and can appear in different orders, so it can become easy to confuse masters and minions when their turn comes up.

This is one of the inspirations for my capstone project and while it brings a useful digital assistant to the game table there is still lots of room for improvement.

Fantasy Flight Games. (2016). Road to Legend [Android].

Plague Inc.


Game Title: Plague Inc.
Genre: Simulation
Target: Teens+
Monetization: Paid, $0.99

Plague Inc is an interesting game where you play as an evolving disease trying to eliminate the human population. As you infect more people you gain points that you can spend to upgrade yourself. It then becomes a race as scientist try to find a cure against you. It is an engaging theme that despite the player being a microscopic disease it is pulled back to a global scale, allowing the player to get a sense of how diseases change and spread in the real world.

Like other simulation games, the player has access to a lot of data. Core information is displayed on the main screen, but global and each countries detailed information are accessible.  After selecting the starting location for the disease, the player only has a few choices while playing the game; when and how to evolve their disease. But can continue to interact with the game by tapping popups to collect upgrade points. Progress is shown by locations turning red as they become infected. The map graphic is appealing and the black and white airplane and ship graphics contrast against it making them easy to see.

There are three difficulty settings and additional content that can be unlocked as you win games. Along with additional expansions that can be purchased, giving the game a lot of replay value. The music is very dramatic giving an additional layer of tension to the game, however with the music on many of the sound effects like buttons clicks blend in and are lost.

Ndemic Creations. (2017). Plague Inc.(version 1.13.3) [iOS]. 

Alchemists: Lab Equipment


Game Title: Alchemists: Lab Equipment
Genre: Board game companion
Target: Everyone
Monetization: Free

Alchemists: Lab Equipment is a required app for the board game Alchemist. It is essentially a randomizer for setting up the game, hiding the effects of combined ingredients that players are trying to discover throughout the game. It offers the possibility to share one device among all the players or to generate a code that everyone can use to set their device too. It helps with different elements of the game, primarily giving the results of combined ingredients that are either selected from the touch screen or scanned with the camera.

There are some sound effects, but no audio or music to accompany and enhance the gameplay. Buttons and images are clear and fit into the theme of the game. But, there is a lack of any animation or effect when combining indigents that would enhance the overall experience. There are also settings that support a dozen languages. The help button links to a webpage with additional information on using the app.

There are some missed opportunities here. From the lack of atmosphere building audio to an in-app local help information. However, the biggest might be that since the core aspect of the game play revolves around making and tracking your deductions, the app would have been a good place to track those when each player is using their device. This feels like the bare minimum to make the app functional with the game, where it could have also been used to make it move immersive and alive.

Czech Games Edition. (2016). Alchemists: Lab Equipment (version 2.0.3) [iOS].

Codenames Gadget


Game Title: Codenames Gadget
Genre: Board game companion
Target: Everyone
Monetization: Free

This is an optional companion app to the party board game Codenames. It can be shared between spymasters or can generate a code that the other spymaster can use on their device. This offers good enhancements to the game from randomizing the key to the game and the starting team. But the timer is the biggest enhancement that it brings. Typically, the sand timers that come with board games must be watched to know when it expires, along with having only one set time to them. This offers options for sounds, not only when the time is up but also a countdown at the end and reminders as it progresses. Along with setting the timer from options between ninety seconds and eight minutes, while also providing options on how that time is split between the team. This provides plenty of options that can be a benefit from casual session to a completive one.

The theme of being a spy in the game and using your device for that secret key does enhance it a bit more. But there are more things that could have been done to help and enhance that idea. Background music, even a knockoff of the mission impossible theme would have added a little more tension to the countdown. The ability to mark what locations have been solved already would have made it easier to focus on what is remaining as the game progresses, making the device more interactive to the experience. Providing hints, harder to implement, would be helpful to younger or new players in playing the game as well.

Czech Games Edition. (2016). Codenames Gadget (version 1.4.4) [iOS]. 

Devil’s attorney


Game Title: Devil’s Attorney
Genre: Casual, Battle system
Target: Teens+
Monetization: Paid, $2.99

            Theme and comedic story is what makes this an interesting game. Along with the polished aspects to the game from the intro video to the spoken dialog before each case. This really feels like a game that is packed in value for the price. The art style also suits it well, making it a fun game to return to.

            The core of the game centers around cases that typically don’t take long to play. Each round the player gets to spend their action points on various attacks against the opposing lawyer, witnesses and evidence. Then, the opposing side does their attacks. It is a system that feels familiar from other genres yet still fits this theme. As the player wins cases they earn money for upgrades, represented by furnishings for their home and clothing. This allows for the character to unlock abilities and stay competitive while cases get harder.

            While the combination of mechanics does not feel unique, it is the theme and overall quality of the game that makes this feel like a unique title. The only thing that might make this a little bit better is to speed up the progression of the character. It did not feel like I was earning enough of a reward for each case to unlock abilities in a timely manner. Also, while there is a loose narrative it is not clear to me if there is an end goal, or if play can continue forever. I feel like my goal is to become the best lawyer, but there is no metric to allow me to know how far along that journey I am.

1337 Game Design AB. (2015). Devil’s Attorney [iOS]. 

Tiny Wings


Game Title: Tiny Wings
Genre: Casual, Endless Runner
Target: Everyone
Monetization: Paid, $0.99

Tiny Wings is a simple game where each level is made up of a hilly terrain, and the player interacts with the game by pressing the screen. This allows the character to dive, speeding them up when moving downward, but slowing them down when moving upward. There are two different modes, one where you are essentially racing against a clock and the other you race against three birds. I have seen similar games along these lines like Time Surfer. For what it is the price feels acceptable, and for people that enjoy this type of game, I am sure there is a lot of replay value for them.

            The art is fun, and the birds contrast from the rest of the level making it easy to know where your bird is. It also offers a fair amount of challenge with objectives and unlockable levels. While I like the one finger gameplay mechanic, I do not feel there were enough options to keep me invested or interested in a long-term replay. In the objective game mode, if I get stuck on an objective I have no way around it. I do not have the option to swap or bypass the objective with currency. This can get frustrating to a player if there is only one way to progress. There also appears to be a lack of unlockable abilities. Meaning that while the levels may get difficult, it feels like my character does not progress at all from the beginning of the game.

Andreas Illiger. (2016). Tiny Wings [iOS].

Ridiculous Fishing


Game Title: Ridiculous Fishing
Genre: Casual, Action
Target: Teens+
Monetization: Paid, $2.99

The first thing I noticed about Ridiculous Fishing was the art style. The pixel graphics and bright colors give it a cartoony feel that is later accentuated when you are shooting dozens of fish out of the sky. The fishing gameplay is broken into two distinct parts, fishing below water and fishing above water. Below water is also broken into two parts, dodging and catching. On the way down the player tilts the device to dodge fish until they either run out of line or accidently catch a fish. Then as the line is reeled back in the player tries to catch as many fish as they can. Once you reach the surface the fish on the hook are launched into the sky then the player must tap on the screen to shoot them and collect their points. In-between fishing the player may move to new locations and buy upgraded items.

The overall goal is to catch all the different types of fish and unlock harder locations and better upgrades. This is a decent game that incorporates the gyroscope sensor of the device, that can be played casually in short sessions. The break in the use of the gyroscope felt a bit disorienting, switching from how I interacted with my device, tilting to tapping. And it didn’t feel as natural as it should have. Perhaps also tilting to aim my gun would have made it a smoother experience. However, that is still a minor complaint. The biggest complaint I have was with the upgrade path, particularly for the guns. You quickly unlock the Uzi and double Uzi which feels very powerful, allowing you to hold and move two fingers around the screen to shoot down fish. Compared to later upgrades like the shotgun, which lets you shoot twice then you must reload, it feels much less useful but costs more and they are unlocked after the Uzi. So, I felt like I was wasting time and not accomplishing anything by unlocking those upgrades.

Vlambeer. (2013). Ridiculous Fishing [iOS].

Camel Up


Game Title: Camel Up
Genre: Board game
Target: Everyone
Monetization: Paid, $4.99

Camel Up is a digital simulation of the board game of the same name. It is essentially a race betting game with camel pieces that can stack on top of each other. I am familiar with the table top version of this game, so picking the digital version up and playing was not too difficult. However, if someone does not have previous experience, I do not think the help menu and limited tutorial is enough to get a player ready to play in a quick enough fashion. When trying to go through the tutorial again it does not replay, making it effectively a one-time use.

While it does play as an accurate digital version of the game, it feels little was done with the visual presentation of the game. The camels are not animated when they move from space to space, other animations and visual effects could enhance the appeal. Nor could you access the instructions from within the game, only from the main screen, and when you exit the game to access the menu your game is not saved. There are three different levels of AI that does help make the game a bit more challenging.

For the price, there are a couple things lacking from this game, an online multiplayer mode and a quality tutorial. While it does function as a decent simulation of the game with different AIs to play against, it does not feel as polished as it should. It also has not been updated in over a year, suggesting this app is no longer supported. I think the price should be dropped to $1.99, reflecting those short comings.

Outline Development. (2015). Camel Up [iOS].  

Magic 2014


Game Title: Magic 2014
Genre: Card game
Target: 9+
Monetization: Free with in app purchase

Magic 2014 is a digital simulation of Wizards of the Coast’s popular card battle game, Magic the Gathering. The tutorial did a great job of explaining the game play so that while I have previous experience with the physical game, I did not think it was necessary in playing this digital version. The tutorial had both in game text and audio that explained the gameplay and mechanics. There were also animated cut scenes that fit with and enhanced the underlying story and theme to the game.

The gameplay flowed well breaking down the different phases and rounds of the game. There are also nice effects when cards are highlighted or interacted within different ways. This was helpful in easily seeing what cards are playable. However, some of the minor bugs I encountered revolved around this. The most annoying being that after each step of the game and despite deselecting any cards in my hand, one would become highlighted and enlarged. There was another time when a cards ability was not clear to me when I could play it, and I was unable to use it.

This app does not appear to be supported anymore, and Wizards of the Coast has released a Magic 2015 and a Magic Duels app. While I enjoyed this version, there were a few minor bugs, so I would be interested trying one of these newer versions for future replay. There monetization strategy was the correct choice, with allowing the basic parts of the game being free so that people can learn and try the game before making any purchases. This or their others app I would recommend to those wanting to play or learn Magic the Gathering on the mobile device.

Wizards of the Coast. (2013). Magic 2014 [iOS].  



Game Title: Osmos
Genre: Action, Survival, Physics Simulation
Target: Everyone
Monetization: Paid, $2.99

Osmos is a game that takes a core gameplay element and builds everything else around that. The player can absorb smaller elements, but can also be absorbed by elements that are bigger than the player. Combined with some 2D physics and the interactive aspect where you tap you eject a portion of yourself, slightly shrinking you and propelling you in the opposite direction. I think this is a very successful game design because the gameplay was not overly complicated and the progressing level designs showcase a range of challenges for the player.

The art style and soundtrack work well together and help to create an atmosphere that feels grander than would be otherwise. In later levels, additional level designs are introduced like gravity sources and a simple AI that allows for some specs to hunt or avoid you. However, there is room for additional level design ideas. Each level has an obvious map boundary, in some cases the player can bounce off it and in other levels touching it results in killing the player. A twist to this could be warping, where exiting one side puts the player on the opposite side. Or the introduction of an endless mode, where there are no map boundaries and there is an endless supply of spawning elements to interact with.

The game appears to be no longer supported with no update since 2013. The campaign does feel a little short with the arcade mode not adding much beyond replaying those levels. I was also not able to find any players through the game center to test online play. With those things in mind, I do not feel the current price is adequate and should perhaps be dropped every six months till it reaches $0.99. While I enjoyed playing this game, I do not think it would have a lasting replay value for me nor would I recommend it at its current price.

Hemisphere Games Inc. (2013). Osmos [iOS].